Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-051969-X
Historical Romance, 2003
The heroine of Mia Ryan’s The Duchess Diaries makes imbeciles everywhere come off like ivory tower gurus. Lara Darling doesn’t think, she cannot think, and she displays a horrific inability to restrain herself. She thinks of something stupid and wham! She rushes headlong into danger only to then scream for help. Repeat this ad nauseum and this book is the author formerly known as Malia Martin’s punishment on the general public for forcing her to change her nom de plume.
Lara Darling doesn’t want to marry. Why? She just doesn’t. She’s nineteen. Her late granny left behind a will where granny dares her to go to London to get married. So there Lara goes, because she can’t resist a bet, see? Here, Lara, I dare you to stick your head into that blender over there, the one making that whirring sound. Before she goes to terrorize London, she decides to get into a carriage race. At the last minute, she panics and decides that her opponent should forfeit the race if he’s a gentleman. I just love a woman that refuses to conform to the standards of her own sex but holds the opposite sex to theirs. Her opponent is Griff Hallsbury, a hard-time hurt-by-evil-ex Baron, who thankfully creates a story for Lara, calling her “Mrs Hastings” so as to save her reputation when her actions come to a noisy conclusion that draw everyone’s attention.
In London, Lara decides that she wants to marry a dying old geezer. So she quickly goes to find a dying old geezer only to realize that old geezers drool and aren’t the sexiest men around. Then she learns that people are talking about “Mrs Hastings” and are suggesting that maybe “Mrs Hastings” isn’t real. Instead of being grateful at given a reprieve, she decides to challenge Griff to another race. And so she goes. She runs headlong into danger, sleeps with the hero without any concern, tells the bad guy the very things he can use to make her life difficult, and generally acting on whim and impulse without thinking even a little about the consequences. Her father is the notoriously negligent type, the patroness is the “unconventional” moron that encourages Lara in her stupid antics, and there are some sisters waiting in the wings for their own books.
Griff is a decent hero although there must be something seriously wrong with him for him to love Lana for her “spirit” and “passion”. The bad guy is the only guy remotely likeable here and I am rooting for him to triumph in the end, but alas, the ending sees Ms Ryan actually having Lara waxing about how wonderful her life is because she has a great husband that allows her to live without conforming to the strictures of the Ton or some nonsense of that sort. If Lara is what is means to live and be free, I think society is better off in chains.
Written in a prose style more suitable for a young adult chick-lit novel, this one is a painful book that details the non-stop antics of the heroine, she constantly getting into trouble because she is too dim-witted to think and having to be rescued by the hero all the time. If Mia Ryan wants to carve out a career as a good author of historical romantic comedies though, she seriously needs to dial the stupid heroine antics down a lot lot more. Life is too short to endure through another The Duchess Diaries.